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September 3, 2017

Sermon II Kings 5:1  . . .“People to meet in heaven:  Naaman”

“People to meet in heaven:  Naaman”

II Kings 5:1

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Is there some illness or medical disability that keeps you from doing what you want to do?  You’re not alone.  There are millions of people around the world just like you, even many actors, actresses, celebrities and singers.

Take Irish author, painter and poet, Christy Brown, for example.  He has cerebral palsy.  For years, he couldn’t speak or even move.  Doctors assumed he was intellectually disabled too.  But his mother kept talking to him, working with him, and trying to teach him.  Until one day, when he was five years old, he snatched a piece of chalk from his sister with his left foot to make a mark on a slate.  Later, he wrote a book called, My Left Foot.  It’s been called, “the most important Irish novel since Ulysses.

Or think of American mathematician and professor John Nash.  In college, he studied chemical engineering, chemistry and mathematics, then was awarded a fellowship at Princeton.  But that’s when he started to show signs of paranoia and schizophrenia, believing that a secret government organization was out to get him.  Finally, after undergoing years of treatment, and even shock therapy, he started to recover.  His story is told in the movie, A Beautiful Mind.

Beethoven was completely deaf for the last twenty-five years of his life, yet he still went on to compose some of the world’s greatest symphonies.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt had polio, and so did golfer Jack Nicklaus and Olympic swimmer Shelley Mann.  Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill and Woodrow Wilson were all dyslexic.  And Sudha Chandran, one of the most accomplished dancers India has ever known, has an artificial right leg.

In spite of incredible setbacks and handicaps, they went on to do some remarkable things.

The book of II Kings tells of a man just like that, a man named Naaman, someone we want to meet in heaven.

If you would, please turn in your Bible to page 394, as I read the words of our text.  I’ll start where it says, “Naaman Healed of Leprosy,” II Kings chapter 5, verse 1:  “Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria.  He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.”

“Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria,” it said.  “Commander in Chief,” “Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” second only to the king himself.  He was a man of power, position and prestige.  He was respected, admired, and adored.  He lived among the upper crust, and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the rich, the powerful and the elite.

In the words of one author, he was “the kind of general who walks into a press conference chest first, who leads with the stars on his shoulders and the medals on his uniform, a man cheered in the parade and saluted on the street, a man made bulletproof by his reputation, and by his 12-gauge ego.”

But there was a problem.  As it says at the end of verse 1:  ‘He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.”

Now I hope you don’t mind, but I need to digress, because it’s important.  What’s a leper?  Or better yet, what’s leprosy?  

It’s a disease that’s terrified millions for centuries, and still threatens lives around the world.  In the words of webmd:  “Outbreaks of leprosy have affected, and panicked, people on every continent.  The oldest civilizations of China, Egypt and India feared leprosy as an incurable, mutilating, and contagious disease.”

It starts small, then quickly spreads to the hands, feet, face and ears.  Limbs twist and fingers curl.  Tissues degenerate.  The body deforms.  It bloats, scabs, and makes a man filthy.

That’s why the book of Leviticus says:  “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean’…He shall live alone.  His dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

For years, Naaman had concealed it, but now he couldn’t hide it anymore.  People treated him respectfully, but wouldn’t dare go near him, least of all touch him.

Can you imagine the deep, deep despair he felt when he spoke the four most painful words anyone could hear?  “I am a leper.”

But there’s more to the story, so let’s read on.  Verse 2:  “Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife.  She said to her mistress, ‘Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  He would cure him of his leprosy.’  So Naaman went in and told his lord, ‘Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.’  And the king of Syria said, ‘Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.’”

So off he went, taking quite a lot of money with him—ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothes.  In today’s money, that’s well over $2.5 million!

But when the king of Israel read his letter, he tore his clothes and said, in verse 7:  “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?”

There was absolutely nothing the king could do, but there was something the prophet Elisha could do.  Look at verse 8:  “But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, ‘Why have you torn your clothes?  Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

So off Naaman went once more, with his cavalcade of horses, chariots, camels, soldiers, servants, flag bearers, and personal attendants, and made his way to the humble home of Elisha, prophet of God.

Now let me ask, if you were the commander of the army of the king of Syria, second only to the king himself, and you had just travelled a huge distance and gone to quite a lot of trouble to be healed, what would you expect?  Would you expect Elisha to step out of his door, lift up his hands in blessing, then speak miraculous words of healing?  

Naaman most certainly did!  But that’s not what happened at all!

Elisha didn’t even go to the door.  Instead, he sent a messenger to say, in verse 10:  “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”  

No wonder Naaman fussed and fumed and went away mad.

Look at what he said in verse 12:  “’Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them and be clean?’  So he turned and went away in a rage.”

Now, if you don’t mind me saying, Naaman was probably right.  The rivers of Damascus were better than the rivers of Israel, far better than the dirty, muddy, mosquito-infested waters of the Jordan.

Besides, Israel was a conquered nation.  As far as Naaman was concerned, it was a second-rate, third-world country.  It had absolutely nothing to offer, certainly not healing for a leper.

Funny thing.  If Elisha had asked for a million dollars in gold and silver, Naaman would have gladly given it to him.  If he had told him to cut himself and to offer his own blood on the altar, Naaman would have said, “Tell me where to cut.”  If he had asked him to crawl across a field of broken glass, he would dropped to his hands and knees, and asked, “How far?”

Sinners, it seems, want to feel as though they’ve delivered themselves.  We want to “do” something, so we can feel like we, at least in part, have accomplished our own salvation.

But God’s grace doesn’t work that way.  Either you receive what He offers as a gift, or it’s not a gift at all.

But when Naaman finally came to understand that, and learned of the power of the grace of God, what did he do?  Verse 14:  “So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God…”

He travelled another day’s journey, another twenty-five miles, from Samaria all the way to the Jordan river.  And there he stooped down and laid aside all the trappings of his worldly glory.  He took off his sword and spear.  He slipped off his boots, his medals and his uniform.  He laid it all down.

Then he dipped once, twice, seven times.  And sure enough, by the grace of God, all of a sudden the scabs were gone, the sores were gone, the scars were gone.  The disease had vanished.  And his skin was as pure and smooth as the skin of a child.

He was a leper no more.

What does all this mean for us?  I’ll leave you with just one thing.

You can imagine how hard it must have been for Naaman to speak those four terrible words—I am a leper.  But when he said those words, that’s when his healing could begin.

Those four words are terrible words.  But you know, there are four other words that are even more terrible and terrifying.  In fact, they’re the hardest words any of us could ever say—I am a sinner.

Can you say them with me?  I am a sinner.

I’m glad you said that, for that’s what the Bible says:  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And it says, “There is no one good; not even one.”

But now that you’ve said those words, you know what?  Just like Naaman, that’s when the healing can begin.  For as you understand the depth of your sin, only then can you begin to understand the length, the width, the height, and the depth of His love (Ephesians 3:18).

And by His grace, and only by His grace, we are sinners no more.

One more thing.  Most of you know the story of John Newton.  For years, he captained his own ship, captured slaves, then brought them and sold them in England.  But after surviving a storm on the sea, he came to Christ.  His life was never the same.

Then shortly before he died at the age of eighty-two, this is what he said:  “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly:  I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

No wonder he could write the words of his hymn:  “Amazing grace!  How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!  I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”


Dear Father, we thank You for the healing You once brought into the life of a man named Naaman.  Help us to say, just as he once said, “There is no God in all the earth like You.”  This we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen


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